Al Pewsey on a daytime Dartmoor Rescue callout - speaking into his radio and checking his map, wearing red waterproofs and red rucksack with trees in the background

Unity5’s technical writer, Al Pewsey, talks about the varied work of the volunteer teams that support our emergency services.

In my spare time since 2010, I have volunteered as a callout member, and now Hill Party Leader, on-call 24/7, for the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team – Ashburton, which is affiliated with Mountain Rescue England and Wales. The charity of about 50 volunteers responds to requests from the Police, Ambulance and Fire Service to assist with a lot more than just those lost or injured on Dartmoor. The team also assists with extreme weather events, flooding, and missing person inquiries for those with dementia or experiencing a mental health crisis, including those intent on taking their own life across Devon and sometimes further afield.

To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, in 12 months, Devon and Cornwall Police received in excess of 5200 999 calls from somebody reporting a family member or friend as missing in Devon. Out of those 5200 calls, over 700 are individuals classed as ‘high risk’ (at risk of harming themselves or others), and it’s those that the Police request the help of other agencies, including us at Ashburton, to assist them as they haven’t the resources to do it on their own.

Last year, we responded to 41 callout requests from the emergency services, of which 27 were responding to search for the vulnerable and despondents. In August, we had 12 callouts, of which 3 were for suicides alone, so it gives you an idea of how important our Unity5 colleagues efforts are. James’ magnificent fundraising for Pete’s Dragons and Shannon and Ben’s volunteering as Mental Health First Aiders are really important.

My role in the team is as a Hill Party Leader, leading foot teams on searches and casualty recoveries, as well as the team ICT Officer responsible for the team’s computing and VHF radio equipment. I’ve been the Fundraising Officer which included project managing our involvement with major events including the Tour of Britain cycle race, and PR and building the team website, as well as part of the medical and water rescue specialists in previous years.

Despite the traumatic and sad nature of some of the incidents we get called to, being part of the team is incredibly rewarding but also very time-consuming. Apart from the callouts, there are the weekly training sessions whatever the weather, predominantly on the moor on a Wednesday night, fundraising events and running talks to groups on the work of the team as the charity relies on public/business donations for over 92% of its funding.

Al Pewsey receiving his medal

Last year, I was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal, and this year, I am shortly to receive the Coronation Medal in recognition of my service as a volunteer to Mountain Rescue.

Al Pewsey meeting HRH Prince William

Joining the team has given me many opportunities to have fun in the great outdoors and further my skills. But the biggest thrill of being in the team is being involved with a successful callout or providing some closure and comfort to families who are searching for a loved one.

Interested in joining Unity5?

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